Welcoming address given at the Active Integrated Matter (AIM) Conference by CSIRO Chief Executive Dr Larry Marshall.

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I would like to begin by also acknowledging the Traditional Owners of the land that we're meeting on today and pay my respect to their Elders past and present.

Good morning everyone, and thank you all for coming along today. It is wonderful to see so many of our partners here with us in the audience.

Today is a great opportunity for all of us to come together to combine our expertise and our passion for solving the greatest challenges through innovative science and technology in what is now a dramatically changing world.

I know a lot of hard work has happened across a lot of diverse projects since our last AIM Conference, so this year’s opportunity to connect , learn from each other, share your latest research findings, and embrace new ideas and partnerships.

It is an opportunity to bring together a community of game changers in Australia; people who are passionate about creating new innovations that will advance the prospects for Australia.

At CSIRO, we often say that diversity is the compass to guide us through the ambiguity of innovation.

We say that because we know innovation comes from being open and sharing information and perspectives, from forging deeper connections and relationships both here and around the world, and from collaborating across the many varied disciplines we have represented in the room here today.

That is exactly why we are here.

We all recognise that collaborations and partnerships are the only way any of us can solve the greatest challenges.

When we are able to bring diverse ideas, diverse people and diverse experiences together from many disciplines and industries; extraordinary ideas and solutions are possible.

We are at a point in the world, where the future will be defined by our collaborations. Our challenges are too great to be handled in isolation by one individual or one agency. We need an extensive network of partners, so it’s great to have you here to continue the journey together.

As Australia’s National Science Agency, CSIRO is here to solve the greatest challenges through innovative science and technology. We cannot do that alone. We have been collaborating for more than 100 years to unlock a better future for Australia, our economy and the planet. And today, we continue that commitment to collaboration reflected in the many valued partners here today to solve challenges through the exciting emerging work in Active Integrated Matter.

At CSIRO we spent the past 2 years using science and our partnerships to identify the challenges where our research and innovation would provide the greatest value and the most unique advantage for Australia. 

We are investing in what we identified as the six greatest challenges, and in fact each of our Future Science Platforms, like AIM, was chosen specifically because it will help us solve the CSIRO 6.

And in keeping with the fundamental principle that innovation doesn’t happen without collaboration, we recognise that the 6 cannot be solved by a single area of research. Instead, these challenges were chosen because they require a multidisciplinary approach and multiple partners to solve.

So what are the greatest challenges CSIRO has set out to solve?

  1. Resilient and valuable environments: This is about enhancing the resilience, sustainable use and value of our environments, including by mitigating and adapting the impacts of climate and global change.

    An example from some of the work being done within Active Integrated Matter is our coral reef monitoring and response technologies, which are monitoring these incredible ecosystems to better understand the global climate change stress they are under. We collaborate both internally and externally to apply these technologies in monitoring and remediating the crown of thorns starfish outbreaks, coral bleaching and the detection of toxic algal blooms.

  2. Food security and quality: We aim to achieve sustainable regional food security and grow Australia’s share of premium AgriFood markets.

    An example here, also from the AIM work, is our work to eliminate food loss. About 1/3 of all produced food is wasted, which contributes heavily to food insecurity and has negative environmental impacts. We’re aiming to avoid food loss from end to end, from farm to retail.

  3. Health and wellbeing: Is about helping enhance our health through preventive, more personalised, biomedical and digital health services.

    Examples here include using advances in our additive manufacturing technologies to be part of a team to 3D print a titanium sternum and ribs for a cancer patient. The device was printed here in Melbourne, then shipped to Spain where it was implanted in a world first surgery. Incredible. It doesn’t stop there.

  4. Future Industries: We are helping to create Australia’s future industries for Australia as well as the jobs required by collaborating to boost innovation performance and STEM skills.

    A couple of key areas we are focusing our efforts include robotics and space which I know are prominently featured here today.

  5. Sustainable energy and resources: Our goal here is to build regional energy and resource security and our competitiveness while lowering emissions.

    Another example using AIM is investigating a way to revolutionise emissions prevention, monitoring and response by understanding the lifecycle of pollutants through a multidisciplinary response. It’s looking at ways to prevent their formation as well as technologies to remove, reuse and destroy them.

  6. And the sixth challenge is maintaining a secure Australia and region – safeguarding Australia from risks such as war, terrorism, regional instability, pandemics, biosecurity, disasters and cyber-attacks.

Connections and partnerships are an integral part of what we do at CSIRO, and the way we work. Our network is becoming even more vital and valuable as we head into the future to address these challenges.

Recently we established a partnership with Fortescue Metals Group to support the creation of an Australian hydrogen industry and export market which is great news for Australia. We are not just creating a new industry and jobs, but also contributing to a different energy future that is secure, affordable, and sustainable. We are at the forefront of this energy revolution.

We've also established a strong network of partners and collaborators that will support the practical research and technology initiatives across the entire hydrogen energy value chain.

Bringing together diverse partners from across industry, government, research and the community is critical as we head into this uncharted territory.

Another example of industry partner’s playing a crucial role, has been in the creation of the new Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder, or as we affectionately call it, ASKAP.

ASKAP will enable high quality and faster imaging of the whole sky. Incredibly it is made up of 36 antennas working together as a single instrument. Even our machines are collaborating.

It will be accessed by 400 astronomers around the world.

I was in Newcastle last month and spent time with local small business Puzzle Precision, who are about to complete work building electronic circuit boards for the receivers in ASKAP.

Puzzle Precision was started by a couple of metallurgists who lost their jobs when Newcastle’s iconic steel industry closed down. They successfully transferred their skills and are now training the next generation of STEM experts.

The pace of change is incredible, we need to be prepared to continue to adapt our skills, our industries and our environment.

Our Future Science Platforms are also about growing the capability of new generation of researchers and allowing Australia to attract the best students and experts to work with us on future science.

So I’m glad to see students and early career researchers here today.

Your energy and fresh perspectives are a critical part of the diversity we need to tackle big challenges with new and emerging research.

I first joined CSIRO as a student back in the 80s, and one of the observations I’ve been thrilled to see when I returned a few years ago as Chief Executive, is that the student experience at CSIRO is still incredibly powerful.

You get to apply your expertise in new and challenging ways, but most excitingly, you get to work with real-world partners solving real-world problems, like the people we have in the room today.

When I left Australia after finishing my PhD, I went on to spend a couple of decades commercialising science.

It was the experiences I had with scientists at CSIRO that convinced me this was not only possible, but essential. Science has and will continue to hold the keys to making life better for everyone.

That’s why I came back to head up CSIRO, because I believe our focus on delivering solutions from science through deep and diverse partnerships is what Australia needs today.

Our Future Science Platforms represent key areas where new science can break through seemingly impossible roadblocks to give Australia an advantage on the world stage. We are creating new ways to live, to work, and to connect, like with AI technology in manufacturing.

And seeing the diversity and expertise and passion in this room today convinces me this is exactly what Australia needs.

Our 2030 vision for AIM is to collaborate so we can harness the scientific advances presented by big data, advanced autonomous systems, and materials science to provide that competitive edge.

Data is going to play a big part in helping to bridge that. We are already looking at further optimizing the data we have at our finger tips to better serve these growing needs.

But while the digital revolution presents many exciting new tools to help us work better, it’s no replacement for the power of making real human connections.

That’s why this conference is so important.

We can’t solve the greatest challenges alone, and even better than forming project teams is forming professional networks.

In this room today you’ll meet like-minded people who are very likely grappling with many of the same challenges you are, while also finding joy and satisfaction from similar successes.

It’s a rare and important opportunity to connect, share, listen and learn from each other, not just today but into the future as your work continues. It’s a time in this country’s history where we need to work together more than ever before.

As we come together today, let’s embrace this opportunity in front of us.  You never know what partnerships may be needed now or in the future.

It’s an exciting time for all of us here. It feels like we are right on the cusp of even more break throughs.

We look forward to working together with you to build a stronger more sustainable future for Australia, solving our greatest challenges and creating a better future for our planet.

[ends]

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